How Many Does It Take?
(Opinion – Editorial) By Steve Kline, John Olson, and the Friends of Lake Chelan
Chelan’s Comprehensive Plan meeting on August 22nd was the largest public planning turnout that we’ve ever seen in Chelan…by far. Mayor Cooney was quoted as saying, “We will listen and we will hear.” But will you take action? By now the mayor and the city council have to know that the city of Chelan wants a park and public access.
In 1957 the Chelan citizens and the City of Chelan decided to throw a party in mid-May called the Apple Cup Hydroplane Races. About 100,000 people showed up for the weekend … then went home. By 1960 the disturbance was so great that the races were cancelled. Now, 60 years later, this many people, or more, show up … but not just for the weekend. They stay all summer from May into September and local efforts are afoot for even more tourists for the remaining months of the year.
The city’s Comp Plan Fact Sheet reports that about 25,000 people are here in Chelan for the summer. Manson and the North Shore has at least as many people there. The South Shore, according to the WA State Parks, reports over 300,000 over the summer. But, the highest estimate is from our Chamber of Commerce, reporting over 2 million; all of these use Chelan services in some fashion.
Now the proposed Comp Plan is adding thousands of acres to the city or to the city’s Urban Growth Area AND increasing the residential density potential all across town. Developers are pleased to be in the city where the rest of us will provide the infrastructure they need. Sure, they have hookup fees, but when the sewer plant, for example, is insufficient, it will be all of us that pays for a new plant since the developers have no impact fees associated with their development. Consider, too, that the city government is responsible for providing a total of 27 different public services to its citizens and guests, including parks. Chelan, a recreation mecca, has the lowest per capita ratio of park area in all of North Central Washington.
Chelan is a lake front community. People come here or remain here because of the lake. If the lake were not here then we’d be just like the Entiat Valley or the Methow Valley; nice places, indeed, but nothing like the Chelan Valley. And yet, all of this proposed development comes without even one inch of new lake front public access proposed in the comp plan.
Hundreds of people have signed petitions and provided testimony over this need for a new lake front park. Even the city’s own Parks, Recreation, and Open Space (PROS) Plan recognizes the dire need for additional space and points to the only undeveloped water front space left: The 3 Fingers. Yet the city with all of their rhetoric about listening to the citizens won’t even investigate the possibility of acquiring the property. A request was made on behalf of the community to the mayor and to the city council at the hearing for an appraisal on the 3 Fingers which would further the process to the demanded additional lake access that the community wants. If you, mayor and council members, are truly listening, and are responsive, then we would expect a motion at the next city council meeting, September 12th, to start the process.
This city government appears to be more concerned about protecting the rights and opportunities of large developers than providing essential public services for our citizens and our guests. How bad does it have to get before the city administration can see their short-sightedness? Was the applause support for lake access and a park from 250 residents not enough? Do we need 500 or a 1,000? Or does it take the last piece of open shoreline to be developed before the administration sees their irreversible mistake?
(By Steve Kline, John Olson and the Friends of Lake Chelan)